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You Won’t Be Able to Copy the Education at East Helena High School, Even if it Copies Its Registration Materials

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I bear no ill will to the people behind the creation of East Helena High School. If the people of East Helena want to pay higher taxes for a less comprehensive education for the students who live there, they have every right to pay for a school that will offer virtual versions of AP classes and foreign language programs instead of the personal instruction offered at Helena High. Every parent, every student, and every community has different priorities for education, and I absolutely wish East Helena the best in the construction of its new high school.

That being said, it’s hard not to be amused when the leaders of the East Helena School District send out a registration handbook that’s so badly plagiarized that it actually includes the initials of the school it plagiarized from to prospective parents and the community.

Just a few snippets demonstrate how little thought went into the document, which promises students that the new EHHS will offer a variety of dual credit and AP offerings. The sections are lifted wholesale from what I assume is Whitefish High School, given the promise that students can get credit at Flathead Valley Community College and that students from “WHS” have already received AP credit in certain areas.

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Even the welcome letter attributed to East Helena’s Ron Whitmoyer is a terrible hack job of plagiarism derived almost exactly from the principal of Whitefish High School’s welcome letter in 2014-15. It’s the kind of work that would lead to a student receiving a failing grade and being removed from an organization like National Honor Society and it’s hardly becoming of an educational leader.

I sincerely hope that the leaders of the East Helena School District address this plagiarism and use it as a teaching opportunity for their incoming students.

And I think it’s the kind of work seen in this registration packet that has been at the heart of much of the concern about the new high school in East Helena since the beginning. Whenever members of the community have asked if the new school can offer the same programs that Helena High offers, the leadership of East Helena has made grandiose promises that aren’t always backed by evidence or any analysis suggesting how the new school can offer such a wide variety of classes and activities.

Perhaps even more frustrating has been the effort by the leaders of the movement to build a school in East Helena to demonize the high school that has educated their kids for generations. I don’t know that I ever would have written any criticism of the new school had its leaders not spent the past few years making false claims about Helena High being “overcrowded” or claiming that staff in our building don’t even know their students from East Helena. Like we are with all of our kids, our staff is committed to teaching every child, and I have enjoyed having kids from East Helena in my classroom just as much as students from all over the area. It’s been disappointing and, frankly, hurtful, to read the suggestion that in my almost twenty years at Helena High, I haven’t wanted the best for all of my students.

I’m done writing about East Helena High and honestly hope that the school serves the students who attend it as well as Helena High has served those kids for generations. Moving forward, though, East Helena High will need to stand on its own and not rely on baseless attacks on the Helena School District nor the materials of Whitefish High School.

In a year, it will be time for East Helena High to stand on its own, and I only hope they can duplicate the success we’ve had teaching their students.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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  • Am I the only one deeply disturbed and offended by their choice of a mascot? The vigilante? Is that something we want our youth to emulate? And what will be the symbol? The hangmans noose? I am a senior citizen, fifth generation Montanan I am so sick of enduring the diefication of the vigilantes. They were murderers, no trials, no due process. Countless studies of the situation prove this.

  • Hi Don,

    I am unfamiliar with this “…effort by the leaders of the movement to build a school in East Helena to demonize the high school that has educated their kids for generations.” Can you clarify which leaders you are referring to and what exactly is meant by “demonize”?

    • I appreciate the comment, Dan.

      I think you know as well as I do which leaders have been very negative when talking about Helena High. I certainly don’t think it’s all the leaders of the movement to build East Helena High and don’t even think it’s a majority of them, but it would be hard to deny that some have not implied, for instance, that staff at Helena HIgh don’t “know the names” of their students or that Helena High, despite being a few hundred students under its maximum capacity, is so badly overcrowded that it causes students to feel incredible stress.

      I wish East Helena High School the best. I really do. And I hope that it turns out great for kids, who should always be the priority.

      And I hope that the Superintendent who will oversee the new high school will stop plagiarizing documents he sends out to the public. It’s not a great look for any school, much less one that’s promising better educational results for kids.

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